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Robert Passes

We regret to inform our readers that Robert Bollinger, former owner of the Oaks Amusement Park and Skating Rink in Portland, Oregon has died at the age of 95. The Oak's rink and Amusement Park is the oldest still in operation skating rink in the United States. Robert, affectionately known as "Bob", "Mr. B", and "Mr. Oaks Park", was at home and in his beloved wife's arms when he passed away.

Bob was raised at "the Oaks", an amusement park located on the banks of the Willamette River in Southeast Portland, Oregon. His father started working there as an electrician. During the off-season, he traveled the fair circuit with his parents. While wandering along the Oaks midway at about the age of 5, Bob fell into the pool of the Chute the Chutes. The midway boss caught the back of his shirt with a grappling hook as he was going down for the 3rd time!

Bob's mother passed away when he was very young. His father raised him and they were very close. Bob became Manager of the roller skating rink and purchased his first ride, a miniature train, at the age of 16. To keep himself busy he tried to figure out which patrons would try to get a "free ride", what the patrons did for a living, their age, weight, etc.

His high school year book notes include: Name - Robert Bollinger ; Alias - "Bob" ; Identification - "His baby blue eyes" ; Defense - "run from the girls" ; Sentence - "to be someone's buddy". After his high school graduation, Bob attended college majoring in Business Administration and Engineering.

In the mid 1930s, Bob married Ruth, a rink employee. They didn't have any children, but Bob could be a big kid himself. Ruth never knew what to expect as Bob was a person who liked "happenings." Late one night while the money was being counted, Bob fired a starting pistol inside the rink. Scared everyone! Ruth was so angry that she didn't talk to Bob for almost 3 days.

Early in the 1940s, with a gentleman's agreement, Bob helped his father purchase the land that park is located on today. Upon his father's death, Bob discovered his father had failed to protect his investment in the park. That discovery was so painful Bob chose to tell people he inherited the park, while he and Ruth purchased the park from his stepmother.

After 42 years of marriage, Ruth passed away. Less than 7 years after her passing, Bob's assets - including some he hadn't planned on (via fraud) - were used to create Oaks Park Association, a not-for-profit, to perpetuate the park to ensure a place for families to play together. Bob intended the Oaks to be available to the general public 6 days and nights per week.

Through the years, Bob built Playland Amusement Park in Vancouver, BC; ran Funland Amusement Park at Point Defiance, WA; owned KLIQ Radio Station; founded FunTastic Rides, Inc; helped build the wooden roller coaster on the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup, WA; built the wooden roller coaster in Playland Amusement Park on the PNE Fairgrounds in Vancouver, BC; was very active in the Roller Skating Association International, Association of Amusement Parks, National Carousel Association and Showmen's club as well as being a member of a pipe organ (his favorite musical instrument) association, a board member of the Oaks Park and recipient of the Vernon Folkes Award for outstanding service above and beyond the call of duty. In his spare time, he became one of the Founding Trustees of the National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, NE. Bob was always a top raffle ticket seller for the annual Museum Raffle held at the Trade Show & Operators convention.

Bob Bollinger is Benefactor of Oaks Park Association. He has been honored by both the National Carousel Association when they proclaimed their yearly major grant be presented with a commemorative plaque know as the "Robert Bollinger Award" and the Roller Skating Association International by renaming their Lifetime Achievement Award to the "Bob Bollinger Lifetime Achievement Award."

Bob was a father figure to many children and young employees. His handshake has been described as the "firmest contract any Philadelphia lawyer could conceive." He was a man of his word, and his expectations were that others were the same. Bob was truly roller skating's Goodwill Ambassador. All who came in contact with him, loved him. Bob was a true gentleman, and all were proud to call him a friend. In May of 2005, the Oaks Park (including skating rink) will be 100 years old, and Bob's memory will be on the minds of all who attend that celebration. Bob loved roller skating and the people involved in it. We wish to send out condolences to the Bollinger family especially his widow. Our roller skating community has suffered a great loss and we will all miss Bob. He was a great ambassador of our sport! . . .

By: Chester Fried
Published by: Roller Skater's Gazette Newsletter
Printed: December 2004
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